Are there too many pharmacy schools?
Monday, March 02, 2015
In a recent Drug Topics article, the founding dean of the new Chapman University School of Pharmacy answered that question with a resounding "no." Ronald P. Jordan defended his Orange County school's existence — and that of many other newly opening schools — by arguing that many career opportunities exist for pharmacists focused on creating better, healthier lives for patients.
Readers, however, were not equally optimistic — calling this latest school just another product of the "diploma mill" mentality of modern pharmacy education. Cash their loan checks, crank 'em out: Ca-ching!
So what is the real deal? Are there more pharmacy schools than necessary to meet the current demand for this profession? Or are we on the verge of a pharmacy-job explosion for which the current number of schools is necessary to keep up?
The answer really depends on who you ask.
There are roughly 130 schools of pharmacy currently in operation around the country. These schools are turning out more than 14,000 pharmacists per year according to statistics from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
With more schools like the one in Orange County continuing to pop up, we can understand what Dr. Daniel Brown of the Lloyd L. Gregory Pharmacy School meant when he said in a 2014 interview posted on Medscape that "a pervasive pharmacist surplus is a very real possibility."
But I can recall a talk I had not too long ago with a friend and professor of pharmacy from the University of Connecticut. In her opinion, a slight oversupply of pharmacists is really not such a bad thing.
A little oversupply allows employers more freedom to deal appropriately with a poorly performing professional. I understand that point, too. There are always a few bad apples in every barrel.
If you base your opinion on data from the Pharmacy Workforce Center (which may or may not reflect reality well), then it is clear that places like New England and most of the Northeast are already in a serious surplus situation.
Want to work in Hawaii? They appear have the lowest need for pharmacists at the moment. Do places like Alaska or Arkansas appeal to you? That's good, as they seem to be having trouble filling open positions.
It behooves every pharmacist to quickly come to grips with the reality that the explosion of pharmacy school class sizes and the number of pharmacy schools is likely to continue for some time. Those who are currently working in great jobs need to count their blessings and not allow a few minor annoyances to interfere with their overall performance.
Remember the old saying: "There is no future in any job. The future is in the person who holds the job."
For those in bad jobs, you need to be proactive. A good job is unlikely to come knocking on your door. Develop your strongest skills, make yourself more valuable and begin to carefully network for new opportunities either within or outside your current employment.
This is especially true if you happen to be located near one or more schools of pharmacy or in an area already struggling with a surplus. Don't waste time and energy complaining. Network, develop new skills and consider adding a certification to your accomplishments. As the saying goes, "Doing beats stewing."
And for those currently looking for a job, I say this: Don't give up. I have worked with many unemployed pharmacists in one of the most saturated states in our nation. The pharmacy job market is not what it was 10 years ago, and neither is the process needed to find a job. It takes work, patience and a strategy. I have seen this pay off time and again.
Are there too many schools of pharmacy? I honestly don't know the answer. There are just too many factors yet to be determined. Time will tell.
As for now, I agree with what Abraham Lincoln once said: "The best way to predict the future is to create it."
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